HAVE A BEER WITH FREE ENERGY
The dudes of Free Energy are making their presence known in Chicago. With an appearance at TNK Fest 2013, an upcoming show at Lincoln Hall and a 2013 album release Love Sign, this band is bringing back the new wave sound of the ‘80s with the rock ‘n’ roll of the ‘70s. It’s a combination that feels right. You’ll hardly believe this is a band from Philadelphia by-way-of Minnesota. Something about their sound will make you think about cruising California highways with the windows down, house parties and roof-diving into a pool.
Last week we caught up with lead singer Paul Sprangers to talk about the Free Energy philosophy and the most un-rock-‘n’-roll thing he’s ever done. Hope to see everyone at Lincoln Hall on Friday, April 26 for their kickass show.
Kristen from A Beer with the Band: First things first. What’s your drink of choice?
Paul from Free Energy: One of the guys in Free Energy got me into Rioja red wine. That’s my jam right now.
Kristen: Do you ever drink it on stage?
Paul: No, but that would be kinda cool.
Kristen: Just adding some class to your show.
Paul: I just need to add some class to myself in general.
Kristen: I think what you’re doing is working. For those who aren’t familiar with the Free Energy, how did you all get together? Is the group originally from Philadelphia?
Paul: We’re all Minnesota guys. Three of us grew up together in a small town called Red Wing, Minnesota. We put Free Energy together in a house in Philadelphia, so it did start there, but we’re not originally from Philly.
Kristen: Let’s talk about your sophomore album Love Sign. How do you feel like you’ve progressed as a group since your debut album Stuck on Nothing?
Paul: I feel like we were much more confident and we knew what we wanted to do with this album, so it freed up John Agnello, the producer, to help facilitate our vision. With the first album, we had a bunch of demos and we knew we wanted it to sound cool but we didn’t know exactly where we were going. It was hard for James Murphy [producer] to help us articulate what was in our heads. I feel like Love Sign is bigger, more distinct, the songwriting is tighter, and it’s catchier. It sounds like the growth that we went through.
Kristen: What’s your writing and recording process like?
Paul: Scott [Wells] and I write the songs and then bring them to the band. Sometimes Scott will write the riff or the melody and I’ll add to it, or sometimes I’ll write the riff and the melody and he’ll mess with it. We’ll demo stuff on our computer, get an outline and then we’ll play it live to see how it works and make any changes. We do different drafts or versions. Sometimes you hit a brick wall and have to throw the song; sometimes the one you thought you didn’t really like ends up being the best one in the studio. You just never know.
Kristen: Is there one on Love Sign that was the unexpected surprise for you?
Paul: “Electric Fever” kind of happened right at the end. It was a riff that Scott had. We had everything done but we had this extra thing, and we were like Let’s just try it, and it came together really fast.
Kristen: You play Lincoln Hall on Friday, April 26. Since we’re a Chicago-based site, we’re interested to know, what are you looking forward to most when you play here?
Paul: Chicago’s really good to us. We love playing Lincoln Hall. It’s a pretty hardcore music scene in Chicago, I’ll say that. It’s a big music city. It’s also great to visit my friends and family here when we play.
Kristen: What’s the most un-rock-‘n’-roll thing you’ve ever done?
Paul: [Laughs] Oh my god, really? You should ask me the most rock-‘n’-roll thing I’ve ever done.
Kristen: Well, that’s my next question.
Paul: I read a lot.
Kristen: What’s your favorite book?
Paul: Do you also want to know my favorite color and my favorite New Kids on the Block Song?
Paul: Blue. And “Hangin’ Tough.”
Kristen: Fair enough.
Paul: Okay, I’m gonna go with the most un-rock-‘n’-roll thing I’ve ever done.I went to a yoga retreat in Pennsylvania. It’s called the Himalayan Institute; it’s on this big estate and they have classes and workshops. I do yoga off and on. I haven’t done it in a while.
Kristen: I’m sure it’s hard when you’re on the road. What’s your favorite venue or show you’ve ever played?
Paul: We just played an arts high school in Phoenix, Arizona on this last tour. It was in the afternoon for like 150 kids and it was amazing. So fun. A guy that works there—a teacher—randomly played in the band that opened for us the night before. And after that show he was like, “You guys should come in and play at my school.” At midnight he texted me and I said, “Yeah, we’ll do it.” In the morning, he asked the administration and we just drove over and played.
Kristen: I’m sure the high school kids loved it.
Paul: They freaked out, yeah.
Kristen: What would you say Free Energy’s philosophy is? If you had to sum it up in one word what would it be?
Paul: One word? Damn, you’re killing me here. I would say probably “tubing.” It’s all about floating down the river, not exerting any effort, just going with the flow.
Kristen: Along for the ride. I like that. Where do you want to be five years from now?
Paul: I want to be in a shack by the beach.
Kristen: Me too. Drinking beers with bands.
Paul: You’re going to be drinking beers with Jimmy Buffett cover bands.
Kristen: That’s fine. I’ll talk to anyone.
Paul: Obviously, you’re talking to me.
Kristen: You guys have a lot of ‘80s influence in your music. Who did you listen to growing up?
Paul: INXS was big for me. I used to be into punk rock… and then Nirvana, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Paula Abdul, Cyndi Lauper, The Bangles, The Go-Go’s. Whatever was on the radio kind of.
Kristen: How did you get into music in the first place?
Paul: I always had melodies in my head. Played piano at my house. I just always kind of did it on the side, and then Scott got me a 4-track and I would record on that in high school. We kept playing together when we were in college, and I would also make records on my own. It was the one thing I kept doing…especially when procrastinating. It’s what came naturally to me.
Kristen: What’s one thing you really want to accomplish in the next year—personally or as a group?
Paul: Probably have a girlfriend that I love. That would be great. I’m not there yet.
Kristen: That’s not a very common response from a band dude. Most of them are like, “I want to party.” That’s the last thing I was expecting you to say, but I appreciate it. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Paul: Know yourself. Do whatever it takes. That’s the only way to get through life.
Visit Free Energy on the web, follow them on Twitter, and head over to their Facebook page. You can also jam out to their music on Soundcloud. You can also read our review of their sophomore album Love Sign by clicking here.